Galatians 2: Bible Chapter Summary

Exploring the second chapter in the New Testament Book of Galatians

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Paul didn't mince many words in the first portion of his letter to the Galatians, and he continued speaking frankly in ​chapter 2.


In chapter 1, Paul spent several paragraphs defending his credibility as an apostle of Jesus. He continued that defense throughout the first half of chapter 2.

After 14 years of proclaiming the gospel in various regions, Paul returned to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the early church -- chief among them Peter (Cephas), James, and John.

Paul gave an account of the message he had been preaching to the Gentiles, proclaiming they could receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to make sure his teaching was not in conflict with the message of the Jewish leaders of the church in Jerusalem.

There was no conflict:

When James, Cephas, and John, recognized as pillars, acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I made every effort to do.
Galatians 2:9-10

Paul had been working with Barnabas, another Jewish leader of the early church. But Paul had also brought a man named Titus to meet with the leaders of the church. This was important because Titus was a Gentile. Paul wanted to see if the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem demanded Titus to practice different rituals of the Jewish faith, including circumcision.

But they did not. They welcomed Titus as a brother and a fellow disciple of Jesus.

Paul proclaimed this to the Galatians as confirmation that, even though they were Gentiles, they did not need to adopt Jewish customs in order to follow Christ. The message of the Judaizers was wrong.

Verses 11-14 reveal an interesting confrontation that occurred later between Paul and Peter:

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. 12 For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. 13 Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were deviating from the truth of the gospel, I told Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Even apostles make mistakes. Peter had been in fellowship with Gentile Christians in Antioch, evening eating meals with them, which went against Jewish law. When other Jews came into the area, however, Peter made the mistake of withdrawing from the Gentiles; he didn't want to be confronted by the Jews. Paul called him out on this hypocrisy.

The point of this story was not to bad-mouth Peter to the Galatians. Rather, Paul wanted the Galatians to understand that what the Judaizers were attempting to accomplish was dangerous and wrong. He wanted them to be on their guard because even Peter had to be corrected and warned away from the wrong path.

Finally, Paul ended the chapter with an eloquent declaration that salvation comes through faith in Jesus, not adherence to the Old Testament law. Indeed, Galatians 2:15-21 are one of the more poignant declarations of the gospel in all of Scripture.

Key Verses

18 If I rebuild the system I tore down, I show myself to be a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Galatians 2:18-21

Everything changed with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament system of salvation died along with Jesus, and something new and better took its place when He rose again -- a new covenant.

In the same way, we are crucified with Christ when we receive the gift of salvation through faith. What we used to be is killed, but something new and better rises with Him and allows us to live as His disciples because of His grace.

Key Themes

The first half of Galatians 2 continues Paul's bona fides as an apostle of Jesus. He had confirmed with the most important leaders of the early church that Gentiles were not required to adopt Jewish customs in order to obey God -- in fact, they should not do so.

The second half of the chapter expertly reinforces the theme of salvation as an act of grace on God's behalf. The message of the gospel is that God offers forgiveness as a gift, and we receive that gift through faith -- not by doing good works.

Note: this is a continuing series exploring the Book of Galatians on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Click here to see the summary for chapter 1.

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Your Citation
O'Neal, Sam. "Galatians 2: Bible Chapter Summary." ThoughtCo, Feb. 4, 2017, O'Neal, Sam. (2017, February 4). Galatians 2: Bible Chapter Summary. Retrieved from O'Neal, Sam. "Galatians 2: Bible Chapter Summary." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 25, 2018).